Headways made for Universal Access at SA National Parks

2015-05-25 16:50
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(Penguin Boardwalk at Boulders in Table Mountain National Park with an universally accessible facility. PHOTO: Supplied)

Cape Town - The national parks in South Africa have made progress for everyone to have access in its tourism offerings, regardless of their physical, intellectual or sensory capabilities, SANParks has said in a statement.

This comes after SANParks Strategic Tourism Manager, Chris Patton at the tourism INDABA currently hosted at the Chief Albert Luthuli International Convention Center in Durban, elaborated on how SANParks has taken particular interest in guests who may have special needs around physical facilities or interpretation of their surrounding environments.

Patton said SANParks has published a booklet called Wheeling/Feeling/Signing WILD, a comprehensive guide to Universal Access in South African National Parks for Guests with Disabilities.

He said the public can look forward to an expanding focus on accessibility initiatives in the various parks, with particular attention to things like:

•         Audio descriptive sound-tracks particularly for visually impaired visitors, but benefiting all guests too.

•         A focus on tactile, scent and sound exhibits.

•         An adherence to the required standards of Universal Access.

•         An escalation of all accommodation types having an accessible option and not just a token portion in a defined size or type of unit.

(Blind Learners at Berg-en-Dal: Blind learners feel their way around the Berg-en-Dal Rhino Museum in Kruger National Park. PHOTO: Supplied)

Nature has a tremendous spiritual power to uplift and inspire people and it is a precious commodity which according to our vision ‘A sustainable National Park System connecting society’, should benefit all people.

"The healing power of nature for people with disabilities can be profound and SANParks strives to enable everyone a chance to experience it," says Patton.  

He said over the years people with disabilities regularly use and enjoy the parks and it is interesting to note that this important segment of the market is able to interact with parks in many ways.         

Some of SANParks universal access achievements are:

•         All the parks have select accommodation for use by guests with mobility impairment, with the required ramps and adapted ablutions, 

•         All the mainstream facilities are equipped with access ramps and accessible public toilets and there are a sprinkling of accessible boardwalks, bird hides, picnic sites, lookout points, interpretive centers etc.  

•         The rest camps, nature trails, information displays and indigenous nurseries within the parks all lend themselves to a variety of tactile experiences or deliberate exhibits where blind people can experience nature,

•         And there are always a proliferation of sights, scents and sounds that enable visitors to enjoy nature through multiple senses.

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